How are the favourites preparing for the World Cup?
The World Cup is almost here at last. It kicks off in Russia in just over two weeks.
But that means there’s plenty of work for the major contenders to do in that time.
We’ve taken a look at how the seven highest-ranked nations in the betting will be making their final preparations.
Germany – 9/2
The holders and joint favourites need to trim four players from their preliminary squad by the end of the week.
Those that do make the cut will want to impress in friendlies against Austria and Saudi Arabia. Manuel Neuer will be desperate to prove his fitness too. The Bayern Munich goalkeeper hasn’t played a competitive game since last September.
Brazil – 9/2
Brazil have two major issues ahead of the tournament starting. They need to make sure Neymar is fully fit. And Tite will have to choose between Fagner or Danilo to play at right-back in Dani Alves’ absence.
The Selecao face Croatia and Austria to help them get up to speed. They’ve been chosen as opponents to pose a similar threat to Group F opponents Switzerland and Serbia.
France – 6/1
The France squad is packed with talent. Didier Deschamps will want to use the upcoming games against Italy and the USA to make sure he picks the right side in Russia.
Does he opt for the aerial presence of Olivier Giroud or the speed of Kylian Mbappe alongside Antoine Griezmann? And how can Les Blues get the best out of Paul Pogba?
Spain – 6/1
The 2010 winners Spain face a tricky friendly against Switzerland next Sunday. They’ve then lined up a game against Tunisia, ahead of their Group B meeting with Morocco.
Julen Lopetegui will take special interest in how his forwards perform over the two friendlies. His side are packed with creative midfielders, but no striker has truly clicked with them yet.
Argentina – 9/1
Argentina suffered a major blow when first-choice goalkeeper Sergio Romero was ruled out last week. But they arguably have the best options up front of any side in Russia – Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala.
Jorge Sampaoli’s side face Haiti and Israel in the run-up to the tournament.
Belgium – 10/1
Roberto Martinez has come under real scrutiny after leaving Radja Nainggolan out of his preliminary squad. The former Everton boss needs to decide which five players will miss out on his final 23.
Belgium are looking to make sure they’re well up to speed with three pre-tournament friendlies. They take on Portugal, Egypt and Costa Rica before flying to Russia.
England – 14/1
England step up their preparations by facing Nigeria this Saturday. Then, like Belgium, England will play Costa Rica to get ready for their Group G opponents Panama.
There are places up for grabs in Gareth Southgate’s XI, especially amongst the backline. The Three Lions are expected to start with a back three in Russia.
Click here for the latest World Cup odds.
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication